April 10: Vaisakhi, also called Vaishakhi, or Vasakhi, or Baisakhi, is the harvest festival of the Punjab state of India. The festival falls on the Punjabi new year. The name comes from Baisakh, which is the first month of the Bikram Sambat Hindu calendar. Its also marks the birth of Khalsa in the year 1699. Khalsa was the name of the collective body of all the initiated Sikhs, represented by the Five Beloved-Ones (or the Panj Piare in Punjabi). It can also be called the Guru Panth, the embodiment of the Guru.

Why is Vaisakhi celebrated?

The festival is a significant one for Punjabis, or the residents of the Punjab region, as on this day in 1699, the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji laid the foundation of Khalsa Panth in Anandpur Sahib. It was also on this day, that he announced the Guru Granth Sahib Ji as the infinite Sikh Guru. Its is primarily the festival of the farmers as this is the time that the winter crops are harvested. It is a day of thanksgiving for the farmers. They not only express gratitude to the Gods, for the abundant harvest, but also pray for future prosperity and progress. Also Read: Baisakhi Significance & History: The day when Guru Gobind Singh redefined Sikhism!

What is interesting about this festival is that, the day technically represents around March 21, but is marked on April 13, due to changes in the calendar. This day of the festival, also coincides with other new year festivals celebrated on the first day of Vaisakh 13 April, in some regions of the Indian Subcontinent such as Pohela Boishakh theBengali New Year, Bohag Bihu of Assam or Puthandu, the Tamil New Year.

How is the festival celebrated?

Since, Baisakhi is primarily a harvest festival, the central traditions revolve around harvesting of the crops. The main tradition, that is the Awat Pauni, is characterized by people getting together in large groups to harvest wheat. Men, women and children take part in this ritual, and work tirelessly to harvest the crop, to the beat of drums, which are played simultaneously in the fields. The tradition also includes people singing special songs and dohas to the tune of the drums.

People also perform the traditional Punjabi folk dance- the giddah, or the Bhangra, on this day. Bhangra, is traditionally a harvest dance and traces its origins from this festival itself, although nowadays, it has been adapted into various contemporary forms and might be performed outside its intended context, more often than not. Some people also visit the Golden Temple- the primary pilgrimage of the Punjabis- on this day.